I was out of GIJoe, I swear. I have a whole giant bin full of them in my basement, untouched. I've gotten all of the guys I'd ever really expect I'd want, short RoboJOE, who's never happening again ever. It's the only stuff I've ever bought where Maggie questions why the hell I care about these things. She understands robots. She understands superheroes. She even understands a few Marios and Luigis. But these assorted little army guys and the chrome-headed dudes they fight, not so much.
And I don't think I could answer her satisfactorily until getting this Battle Platform Attack Kre-O set. I think it does all the things I like about G.I.Joe better than the regular-sized figures. A huge part of this is the smaller scale. A giant collection of Joes and Cobras and their respective vehicles takes up a lot of real estate. Especially vehicles. But these little brick dudes and their equally-tiny helicopters and tanks? These are manageable. You can have an entire world on a shelf, rather than roughly about 10% of a world.
Another plus is that these guys are more play-friendly. I don't gotta reinsert a rifle into someone's hand every thirty seconds as I hop him around. Stuff stays together, even though everyone's made out of stuff you take apart. It's all less fiddly.
The last piece in the satisfaction component is that it doesn't take itself seriously. G.I.Joe has been trying to take itself super-seriously for years, and it turns me off. But these Kre-O guys embrace all of the goofiness. There are Trouble Bubbles and tiny little jails and everyone looks adorable and oh hey there's cans of JOE COLA in the refrigerator downstairs for reals.
(Anyone else thinks it's kind of weird that the Joe component of this set is armed up to shoot-to-kill while the Cobra component exists to take prisoners? Mmmm, dissonance.)
I knew that the Joe RAMand the Cobra FANG and Flight Pod were based on real 1980s Cobra vehicles, but I'd forgotten entirely the original Battle Platform that this Kre-O set is based on. I thought it was just a fun Kre-O-style playset, but no, it's also all vintage-y. Wacky. I looked around to see if the Cobra prison thinger was based on anything, but came up empty.
The set comes with Cobra Commander, two Cobra Troopers (one's an airtrooper), Duke, and Roadblock. Despite all these guys, plus the four blind-bagged guys I already owned, the playset still feels a little empty. This is extremely clever of Hasbro, because dammit now I need more blindbagged guys. My battles need to be a little busier. Foiled again.
Hey, why does Cobra Commander's Kreon have flesh hands? Shouldn't he have gloves?
Kre-O has slowly been branching out into other Hasbro brands. Last year there was Battleship Kre-O, and let me tell you, that sold just as well as you'd expect it to. Later this year we're getting Star Trek Kre-O. And, wow, finally, three years after Kre-O has been a thing, it's reached Hasbro's other big boys toy franchise, G.I. Joe. That it's taken this long doesn't say inspiring things about the strength of the G.I. Joe franchise. That they're entirely exclusive to Toys"R"Us doesn't help either. I think lately G.I. Joe has stopped being so much Hasbro's sugar daddy as it's started being that gross uncle who only calls up when he needs cash or is in jail.
And I see that Hasbro's really trying to milk the nostalgia on this stuff. I mean, they're just going full-blown Eighties on all this G.I.Joe Kre-O. There is zero pretense of it trying to be also a visual tie-in to this year's movie. G.I. Joe Kre-O is seriously a bunch of Real American Hero vehicles done in brick-style with RAH characters. I don't know if I want to... commit to all that, so I decided to get only a blind-bagged Kreon or few. For now, at least. We'll see.
I like Scarlett! So I figgered I'd get Scarlett. Plus she hangs around Transformers often enough, so she can join my other human Kreon guys from my Transformers Kre-O stuff. But there's also, holy hell, a Joe Colton Kreon. And I say holy hell because his little Kreon hairpiece is friggin' flocked, man. Like the original Adventure Team figure. For serious. So I can't not pick up that guy. And then I realize I have these two Joes, and they could probably use some Cobra to fight, and so I pick up a Cobra Trooper and a Crimson Guard.
They're exactly what you'd expect, other than some small creativity with the weapons. Sometimes they find interesting ways to snap other pieces onto the little rifles, like clipping a Starscream armgun to the top of a rifle to make a scope. Scarlett comes with a missile-launching crossbow. Joe Colton comes with... himself packaged in an Adventure Team box. All right!
Man, how the hell is there no friggin' Destro, man. They better be saving him to come with a Kre-O Dominator later or something. Nevermind, here he is! BOUGHT ON SIGHT.
It was a pretty empty Hasbro presentation yesterday due to snowstorms, but the folks who managed to make it got to see a lot of crazy-ass stuff.
Of course, Beast Hunters is ongoing this year. The highlight for me, beyond the usual "yay, Shockwaves and dragons and Ultra Magnuses" is the retooled Beast Hunters Ratchet. I was already excited for a possible retool of Ratchet in the style of the other retooled toys, but I didn't imagine they'd make him friggin' Dinobot. Hasbro's (inadvertently?) made him a mix of two of my favorite characters, and my brain doesn't know what to do with this. (In a positive way.) It's a Ratchet/Dinobot Fuzor, complete with a rotate blade. Maybe next year they can take things further and throw some Hot Shot in there too, and we'd have the perfect center of my Favorite Transformers Characters Venn Diagram.
Kre-O's also giving us two more waves of blindpacked Micro-Changers. That's 24 more guys! And there's folks like Arcee and Cheetor and Guzzle and Lugnut in there. There's three more Kreon Combiners as well, with Defensor, Abominus, and Piranacon in wave 2. I am so glad these guys are so cheap 'cuz I wannem all.
Later this year, Hasbro's beginning to celebrate Transformers' 30th Anniversary. The centerpiece of all this is holy cow the largest Transformers toy ever made, no joke. A new toy of Metroplex clocks in at a few inches taller than 1987's Fortress Maximus, which was already nearly two feet tall. The new Metroplex still has both battlestation and city modes, and I really like the direction the new toy has taken these ideas. The battle station pushes more of an aircraft carrier vibe with a sizable pair of airstrips running down the legs. That's way cooler to me than covering up those flat surfaces with giant guns. And the city mode deals with what I thought was the most annoying thing about Metroplex's original city mode, which was all of the obstructed street paths. You can send a car from the garage in Metroplex's chest all the way out to the tips of his feet. No big obstructions in the way. And, of course, the helipad is still there, and Metroplex has electronic lights and speech, and apparently his pupils can look around??? Metroplex is intended to work with Legends Class toys (he comes with a Legends Class Scamper), and in that vein Hasbro is giving us new Legends versions of Optimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, and Starscream. There's obviously a whole catalog of older Legends Class and Cyberverse toys as well to fill those ranks.
In the smaller end of the 30th Anniversary line are a series of Deluxes that are based on the IDW comics. You know those Spotlight issues that are coming out now? Those are the issues that will be backed in with these toys, and the titular character gets a toy in the body that's seen in that issue. So Orion Pax, Thundercracker, Megatron, Bumblebee, Trailcutter (Trailbreaker), and more are getting this treatment. And, oh, hey, two new Voyager Triple Changers, Blitzwing and Springer. Blitzwing's okay, but Springer is my Best Possible Springer. He's based directly on Nick Roche's design from Last Stand of the Wreckers. Seriously, dudes! That's like the only thing that would make me excited about a new Springer toy, Triple Changer or no. That shoots him up to the top of my list. Sorry, Chinese Springer I just bought. Your helicopter mode is a pretty toy-y gray, but this new guy is friggin' Nick Roche Springer.
Not content to release buttloads of single-bagged Transformers Kreon mini-figures into the world, Hasbro's also got a larger assortment that gives you four Kreons and some parts and tells you how to assemble them into a super-robot, G1-homage style. There's Predaking, Bruticus, Superion, and Devastator so far, and I chose to do Predaking first. He's, y'know, animals, which are awesome, and I've had quite a few redoes of the other three guys over the past few years. Predaking feels the most novel.
As I said, there's just four guys in each combiner set. The traditionally fifth guy you can find in the single-bagged assortment, and in the Predacons' case it's Rampage. He doesn't help make the big robot. He just gets to stand there and exist, completing the set of Kreon mini-figures.
True to most Transformers beasts, the beast modes of the mini-figures are pretty one-to-one, with arms becoming forelimbs and legs becoming hind limbs. They're a bunch of crawling dudes with animal masks. It's kind of adorable. They get a new specialized piece, an all-purpose animal head. There's holes in it various places so you can stick horns in there to make a crude rhino or a bull head. The only one who doesn't follow this pattern is Divebomb, the eagle. Divebomb's eagle mode is... not good. And this is by Kreon standards, with the aforementioned crawling masked dudes. You basically put horns in his feet and sit him down. he doesn't even have an animal head helmet like the others. Ah well.
The individual robot modes are what you'd expect. The're Kreons, all based on the original Generation 1 Predacons. You can attach some of the transformational extra pieces on them as the instructions show or you can just keep 'em bare. Your choice. Leaving off the flak jacket is probably a good thing to do with Razorclaw. The jacket covers up the decoed lion head/mane on his chest just so you can hang the felt mane off his back. It doesn't seem necessary.
There are several extra pieces to accomplish the combined Predaking mode. There's a separate crotch piece included which forms the crotch of the super robot, plus some specialized pieces that help form biceps and thighs. The thighs connect onto the extra crotch via a balljoint, and the biceps connect onto the shoulders of one of the mini-figures inside the torso. You gotta remove the arms of the mini-figure to do so. At the end, you've got two mini-figure torsos stacked inside the super robot torso, two whole mini-figures helping form the shins, and the remaining set of legs to be the hands. It's not quite how the old combiner teams did it, which is why Rampage comes separate. There's not anywhere for him to go.
There are pieces left over in both modes, which is sad but understandable given what's going on.
It was both awesome and terrible that we got all these Transformers Kre-O Micro-Changers this year. It was awesome because, well, duh, these guys are great and there's an insane variety and breadth of character choice. There's guys like Hook and Warpath, sure, they're not too surprising, but we also get folks like Scorch (as "Singe") and Bludgeon and Airachnid. The character choices are from all of Transformers, and that makes them interesting to me.
What's terrible about it is that now that I knew there was going to be all these interesting guys, I kind of wanted to have all of them. I wanted to start collecting them, rather than just choosing the ones I wanted. Having a larger and more populated "world" made the line "real" to me. And so I ended up buying a lot of old sets I had passed over to get guys like Bumblebee and Sideswipe. Thankfully, by the time I got to them they were old enough to start going on heavy clearance.
Anyway, check out this sweet Bludgeon Kreon. He's a Micro-Changer, meaning he's in one of twelve blind-bagged figures. Other than a stamped imprint of a number code on the back of the bag, you don't know which one you're getting, like a pack of trading cards. What makes him a Micro-Changer specifically is that he comes with some extra parts to give him a very crude vehicle mode. Basically, you pretend this dude lying down with treads on his arms and a barrel on his back is a tank. Not the best-looking thing, but given the idea requires that a little dude be in the center of whatever you're putting together, plus the whole $2.99 price tag, it's hard to complain. Besides, folks just want these things for the figures themselves anyway.
The only real annoying part is the piece Kre-O uses to attach things onto the back of the robot mode. It's always these military flak jacket pieces that fold over the entire torso. Sure, the peg on the back is there so you can give him kibble, but the front of the flak jacket covers up all the distinguishing deco on the front. LEGO has pieces that connect over the neck and hang over the back of the torso only, leaving the front of the torso bare, but Kre-O must not.
But it's a building set, so you can always just leave off that stuff if you want and go with the bare figure.
Here's the number codes if you find a box of these guys and want to select one you want. Not every case has a full set of dudes -- sometimes it's almost everybody, but sometimes it's just three guys that repeat over and over. It seems to always be random.
Hasbro is spreading their Beast Hunters stuff into the Kre-O line as well. This set based around Optimus is the only set that's out so far, and it's only been spotted at Meijer. But I had to have it for Reasons.
Well, Reason. Finally Hasbro's started giving names to the little human dudes who come with the bigger sets. Usually they're just "driver" or "pilot" or whatever, but this time the human's named and designed after the kid from Transformers: Energon, Chad "Kicker" Jones. As were his toys in that toyline, his name is better trademarkable as "Energon Kicker," so there y'go. Another set that's not out yet comes with "Col. Daniel Witwicky," which is Sparkplug Witwicky's full name and rank in IDW comics. If they keep on throwing awesome pre-existing human dudes into these sets, I am going to be very pleased and also very poorer.
The rest of the set didn't disappoint, either. I really feel like these later Kre-O sets are hitting a groove. The sets from the first year annoyed me as they got more complex. Even the mid-sized sets built its robots from many strata of thin tiles, and as a result they weren't that fun to put together. This Beast Hunters Optimus Prime set avoids that without being a pile of specialized bricks. It feels more efficient and creative.
There was another pleasant surprise: there are two different choices for hands on each wrist. On older sets, there was just a generic fist-block for hands. But here, we get slightly rubberized hands molded into various poses. There's a sword-holding hand and an open-palm-fingers-splayed hand for the right arm and a clenched fist and pointing finger for the left arm. This is the damn coolest thing. I was going to build the truck mode first (it looked cooler) until I saw I had all these hand options.
Even forgetting the hands, the robot mode is a satisfying completed build. Lots of articulation is built into the robot mode, and not just on the limbs and ball-jointed waist. Prime's knee-kibble points foward, you can play with his shoulder stuffs similarly, and the winged backpack with working missile launchers can raise up from his back to position over his shoulders. There's a lot to do. His sword doesn't come with a scabbard, but that's okay, because this is construction block stuff, so just peg it on his thigh.
His truck mode is neat-looking, too, but it sort of sits in the shadow of the awesome robot mode build. It was interesting to discover that the trailer is actually mounted on an articulated ball-jointed arm that comes out of the hitch. The roof is more lightly pegged-in so you can remove it easily to fit a Kreon inside. And, again, missile launchers and deployable wings.
There's an unnamed dragon dude, too. He looks kind of like Lazerback, but not quite.
The only thing that bugged me about the set was the stickers. The sticker boundaries weren't cut very precisely, and so if you have two stickers which are supposed to have symmetric deco, one of them is sometimes a little offset. It can be a little annoying, especially with the dragon's eyes. You can line up the boundaries of the stickers themselves so they're symmetrical, but one eye will still look a little dippy as it's wandered across the surface of the sticker.
During the G.I. Joe portion of the introductory presentation, a memorial clip was shown that mourned the loss of Renegades character designer Clement Sauvé. A piece of music was composed just for the presentation, a Sad Piano version of the Renegades theme song. It was very touching and I'm glad they put that together.
Hasbro has a new Totally Not Lego brand coming out soon called "KRE-O," and this section was put in a tiny room away from everything else and heavily guarded. No photographs were allowed. Hasbro was afraid that somebody from LEGO might get inside and find out how to make construction bricks or something. And then they put a bunch of photos of three of them in their press kits. Well, yeah, sure, but now LEGO will never know that Hasbro is also making kits of Jazz, Ratchet, Prowl, Cliffjumper, Megatron, Sideswipe, and Sentinel Prime!
Anyway, it looks really neat, and I will probably get Ratchet. I loves me some Ratchet.
Addendum: "KRE-O" must be pronounced as if you are Dr. Cliff Huxtable yelling at your son. I've decided this.